Different is the New Normal, a new film that demystifies the stigma of Tourette Syndrome

Posted: November 2, 2011 in Tourette Syndrome
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The national Tourette Syndrome Association, Inc. is excited to inform you that “Different is the New Normal,” a new film that demystifies the stigma of Tourette Syndrome, will air Sunday, November 6 at 6:00 pm on WTTW in Chicago. The film captures the courage and triumph of Ariel Small, a teen with TS, and features James Durbin of “American Idol” who inspired the film title.

 For those outside the Midwest viewing area, the one-hour documentary is available for the national audience for a limited time here.

Moving and Intimate Portrait –

Featuring James Durbin of American Idol, Who Inspired the Film Title –

Captures the Courage and Triumph of High School Senior Ariel Small

 CHICAGO, IL – October 27, 2011 – You cannot control the tests of life, but how you confront those challenges defines who you really are…. Ariel Small was born in suburban Chicago, the middle child in a close-knit family of five boys. When he was 6, Ariel’s parents became concerned when they noticed he was exhibiting odd facial movements that he couldn’t seem to control. Ariel was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurobiological disorder affecting an estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. alone. Different is the New Normal, premiering in the Midwest on WTTW, Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. and on PBS nationally in May 2012, closely follows Ariel’s incredibly moving journey to overcome obstacles and bust the misconceptions surrounding Tourette’s. Along the way, a meeting with James Durbin, whose own embattled path led him from brutally bullied student living with Tourette’s to nationally-celebrated American Idol Finalist, helps reinforce Ariel’s own belief that anything is possible.

 One of the disabling aspects of Tourette’s is the tics that disrupt daily function, but Ariel found that another was the constant need to prove that his symptoms were real – and that he wasn’t faking them just to be disruptive. Different is the New Normal introduces viewers to an amazing 17-year-old who refuses to be defined by a disorder and instead chooses to validate, advocate and educate.

 The film is a presentation of Creative News Group in association with WNET New York Public Media, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations and operator of NJTV.

 “I have made it my mission to educate the world about Tourette’s Syndrome and pave a path for all of the kids who struggle with Tourette’s on a daily basis,” said Ariel Small. “My hope is that Different is the New Normal will change the way people think and feel about those they perceive as different and encourage them to look past those differences and see how alike we really are.”

 “Different Is the New Normal captures the pain and frustration many parents and their children experience,” said Neal Shapiro, WNET’s President and CEO. “Ariel’s inspirational story provides an uplifting perspective to this often misunderstood disorder, and will inspire everyone who watches this film to think about people as individuals, not as labels.”

 Produced, directed and written by Emmy Award-winning NBC News veteran John Block and directed and edited by Chicago native Matt Wechsler, who also is the film’s cinematographer, Different is the New Normal is an acutely personal and ultimately uplifting first-hand account of Tourette’s through the eyes of Ariel Small. According to the Tourette Syndrome Association (TSA), the only national non-profit membership organization in this field, Tourette’s is a neurobiological disorder characterized by involuntary and repetitive physical and vocal tics.

 At first, the Smalls shared the common preconceived notions of Tourette’s stereotypical symptoms such as compulsive outbursts of obscenities, but that behavior actually belongs to a rare form that affects only a small percentage of patients and Ariel exhibits none of these traits. With his permission, Robin Small turned the camera on Ariel to let viewers in on their family’s emotional journey to surmount the challenges of living with the disorder and break through the stigma and shame associated with Tourette’s.

 “WTTW is honored to be the first station in the Midwest to air this important film, which puts a human face on a condition about which there are many misconceptions,” said Dan Schmidt, President and CEO of WTTW.  “It is especially significant given that the Smalls are from the Chicago area, and we feel the telling of their story aligns with WTTW’s mission to educate and enlighten our audiences.”

 “We hope that this documentary changes people’s perceptions of Tourette’s Syndrome and will inspire children who are struggling with it,” said Robin Small, Ariel’s mother. “It is extremely important to separate the person from the disorder.  We are all different and it is these differences that make us unique.  Understanding and empathy are qualities of a successful perspective that will help individuals succeed in life.”

 To help safeguard other children from the hardships he has faced since he was young, Ariel’s laudable mission is to speak out in order to demystify Tourette’s. As an Illinois Youth Ambassador for the TSA, he was invited to address members of Congress and their aides about Tourette’s at a special luncheon. In addition he has developed a presentation designed to increase awareness about Tourette’s Syndrome and visits Chicago-area middle schools with his important message of acceptance. The all-conference captain of his Varsity football team, Ariel has achieved high honors each semester of his high school career and also finds the time to mentor local youngsters with Tourette’s Syndrome.

 Different is the New Normal is a presentation of Hourglass Films and a production of Small Boys Productions and Creative News Group in association with WNET New York Public Media. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local documentaries and other programs for the New York community and beyond. Major support for the documentary is provided by David and Robin Small. Executive Producer is Robin Small. Producer, Director and Writer is John Block. Director, Editor and Cinematographer is Matt Wechsler. Composer is David Varga. Narrator is Edie Magnus. For WNET’s Creative News Group, Executive Producer is Mary Lockhart. Executives-in-Charge are Stephen Segaller and Neal Shapiro.

 To learn more about “Different is the New Normal” click here and to learn more about Ariel Small, please click here.

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